CAIRO: The Monastery of St. Macarius may be listed on a Coptic Heritage List days after photos circulated in mass media showing monks lying before a bulldozer to prevent a governmental road-building project.
“An ad hoc committee of specialists was dispatched Saturday to the monastery. It is tasked with preparing and submitting a scientific and technical report on the eligibility of adding the Monastery of St. Macarius to Egypt’s Coptic Heritage List,” head of the Coptic and Islamic Monuments Department at the Antiquities Ministry Mohamed Abdel Latif was quoted by Youm7 Sunday.
The Egyptian government approved years ago a road construction project that would connect the city of Fayoum, 100 kilometers southwest of Cairo to the oasis in Egypt’s western desert, according to Youm7, the new road was designed to pass through the territory around the monastery.
The Ministry of Antiquities expressed its opposition to the new road project and recommended full protection of the archaeological area around the monastery, said Latif, adding that if the committee recommended the addition of the monastery to the Coptic Heritage List, the project would be automatically canceled.
“The project was seen, by over 100 monks in the monastery, as a threat to the water supply and agricultural fields belonging to the Coptic monastery, thus, they confronted with the workers and lied in the path of bulldozers approaching to destroy a part of the wall surrounding the property Thursday,” activist Girgis Boshra told Youm7.
Thursday’s confrontation is latest incident in a 7 year-long legal dispute over the new road project, said Girgis, adding that the monks have launched several public campaigns and submitted alternative roads to stop the building of the new road.
Located in Wadi al-Natruon, 92 kilometers northwest of Cairo and off the highway between Cairo and Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Macarius, also known as Deir Abu Magar “has been continuously inhabited by monks since it was built in the 4th century,” Coptic History Professor Fathy Khourhid told The Cairo Post Sunday.
“St. Macarius was the spiritual father to more than 4,000 Coptic Orthodox monks in Egypt, Greece, Ethiopia and Armenia,” he added.